I’m an idealist, somewhat tempered with age, but I suspect that with our society’s fixation on dollar-value, we will never, ever value knowledge at its true worth simply because we can’t monetize it.
We have billions, nay trillions of dollars to blow up the world, but we can’t spare a few million for education. We have endowments in the billions at universities, but university presses go hungry for funding and fold. Granted, not everything published is worth the paper it is printed on, but that is partially the result of the rewards system: publish or perish, which results in what they call baloney slicing the results: get as many articles out of an research project as you can. That, in turn, discourages synthesis, which we desperately need.
Eli Goldratt, back in 1990, published a book entitled The Haystack Syndrome, which argued we are drowning in data, but seriously short of knowledge. He offered some tools—very useful ones (systemically oriented) in a business setting—for extracting knowledge. The situation has only gotten worse. And very few people are fighting for a systemic look at things; that seems to be a business fad that died back in the early 2000s, sadly. Deming, with Total Quality Management, the Toyota Production System, Constraints Management (Goldratt), all fell before the push for the almighty penny of profit. Toyota pivoted from wanting to be the best car manufacturer to being the biggest; quality fell, but they are the biggest. Granted, their cars are still better than most, but that is probably just residual and the quality will continue to fall—tell me how you will reward me, and I’ll show you how I will perform. Reward profit, everything becomes subservient to it.